Katonga Wildlife Reserve safari | Travel guide

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Katonga wildlife reserve in western Uganda is situated in between the districts of Kamwenge and Ibanda near the River Katonga. The reserve sits on an area of approximately 200 square kilometers about 4 hours from Kampala.

Efforts to better protect the park against poaching are slowly restoring the animal population and several antelope species can be easily seen including the Uganda kob.

The rare, marsh-dwelling sitatunga antelope can sometimes be spotted as well as otters and other mammals.

The reserve was gazetted in 1964 as a game reserve to serve as a corridor for migrating wildlife from Western Uganda to Tanzania and Sudan and became a Wildlife Reserve in 1996.

Why visit Katonga Wildlife Reserve?

Katonga Wildlife Reserve safari

Situated in the core of Uganda, Katonga wildlife Reserve is not as popular as the other reserves, ideal for the traveler looking for a quieter wildlife experience.

The wildlife reserve is situated on the furthest steps of the famous valley of Katonga river. A  Uganda safari at Katona gives visitors the opportunity to cruise on a canoe as you trail through a shallow channel and its papyrus swampy areas.

Big cats are absent, and elephant and buffalo occur in small numbers only. But the park is one of the few places in East Africa that offers a chance to see the sitatunga antelope.

Indeed the best way to tour this reserve is on foot or by the use of canoes, the reason being there are no roads that allow safari vehicles to access the reserve.

Animals

Katonga doesn’t however support most of the large safari animal species. Big cats are absent, and elephants and buffalo occur in small numbers only. But the park is one of the few places in East Africa that offers a chance to see the sitatunga antelope.

Several other antelope species are present as well, including reedbuck, bushbuck, waterbuck and Uganda kob.

Olive baboons and black-and-white colobus monkeys are also regularly spotted. Several years ago, zebra and impala were translocated to the park from Lake Mburo.

The population of hippos and birds is also growing in addition to primates. In the 1960s, the reserve was home to a variety of animals including the zebra, topi, and eland, which are no longer seen in the reserve.

Elephants, buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck, reedbuck, and sitatunga still can be found here however.

Birds

Bird life is prolific in the Reserve with over 150 bird species recorded in the wetlands, savannah and forests including storks and crested cranes through the savannahs and wetlands as well as African hoopoes.

The majority of the birding species found in the reserve are specific to the aquatic and wetland ecosystem.

Trees

The Katonga landscape is mainly rising and falling in nature with distinct vegetation types including mixed savannah with acacia scrubland or woodlands, rolling grasslands and pockets of riverine and tropical habitats, swamps and papyrus.

However, major parts of the Reserve are either permanent or seasonal wetlands. The main plant species found in Katonga include the Chloris Gayana and the Sporobolus Festivus, existing in association with species like the Setaria, Hyparrhenia and the rare Panicum Maximum.

The wetland structure is interlaced with the Nile structure, creating a significant wetland system for humans.

Other activities at Katonga Wildlife Reserve

The following are some other Ugandan activities that visitors to Katonga Wildlife Reserve can look forward to on their trip:

  • Game viewing: A network of game tracks offers an opportunity to see a variety of animals and different bird species in the reserve.
  • Nature walks: Guided half day trails which explore through tall rocks, forested caves and valleys taking you through the grassland and wetlands, this offers you a chance to encounter the rare sitatungas.
  • Canoe trip: Watch out for various mammal species and bird species especially the water and papyrus associated birds including the shoe bill during the 2 km ride.

How to get to Katonga Wildlife Reserve?

By Plane

Entebbe International Airport (EBB) is how most most visitors enter Uganda and travellers should be aware of the latest Uganda visa requirements.

Chartered air flights do fly from Entebbe International Airport to Park Headquarters. An airstrip is located at Lomej which is about 3km (just under two miles) south of the Headquarters.

By Road

The journey into the Reserve is a three-hour drive from Kampala to Kyegegwa Town Council. At Kyegegwa, detour southwards for 42 km following well visible signposts.

For visitors considering self drives, some considerations are crucial. Distances are long and roads are not always easy, a four wheel drive vehicle is recommended.

It is advised to first contact the Uganda Wildlife Authority for an update on road conditions before setting out.

Carrying a small amount of local currency, the Uganda currency (UGX) is advised for smaller purchases.

Tariffs & Regulations

Entrance fee

All Katonga Wildlife Reserve fees are payable at the gate at time of entrance. Park fees are valid for 24 hours.

  • Foreign Adults: USD $35 per day
  • Children Under 16: USD $5

Carrying a small amount of local currency, the Uganda currency (UGX) is advised for smaller purchases.

Regulations

If you keep to park rules, you can stay with the animals as long as they are not disturbed by your presence.

Accommodation at Katonga Wildlife Reserve

Katonga Wildlife Reserve offers no other accommodation option to visitors besides the camping site and restaurant managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Hotels

Kabagole is located 2km from the reserve HQ with basic accommodation available at the Katonga View Hotel and Lodge where meals and cold drinks are available for those unable to camp.

The Rena Akasha Establishments is set in Kyenjojo, 43 km North West from the Reserve. The establishment offers a well placed room with a flat-screen television set that features satellite channels, a kettle, a DVD Player, a private bathroom, a bidet, free toiletries as well as a hair dryer.

Most of the rooms are fitted with a terrace where one has access to spectacular views. Visitors also have access to a 24-hour front desk and a restaurant where continental or buffet breakfast meals are served.

Country resort

Another option is the Igogora Country Resort located in Kamwenge, 37 km southwest of Katonga Wildlife Reserve.

The Resort offers rooms that come with air conditioning and a private bathroom. Also on offer is a restaurant where continental breakfast is served, a bar, a garden and private parking.

Campervan

Guests on a self-drive safari with a campervan can make significant savings by sleeping in their vehicle.

Bars/restaurants/amenities

Lodges will typically have all meals and drinks included in the lodge package.

Useful information

Geography

On a Uganda safari tour, Katonga Wildlife Reserve can be located in the districts of Ibanda and Kamwenge in western Uganda along the banks of River Katonga. It covers an area of about 211sq km.

Trips to the park are often combined with tours of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Murchison Falls National Park

Weather

Straddling the equator, Uganda has little year-round fluctuation in temperature. The hottest months are January and February when the average daytime range is 24°C to 33°C (75°F to 91°F) with peaks of up to 40°C/104°F in the far north.

The south has two Wet seasons: from mid-September to November and March to May, but it can really rain at any time. The north has one continuous Wet season from March to November and a more obvious Dry season from December to February.

Best time to go

Understanding the best time to visit Uganda is important as this will impact accommodation, flight prices, availability and the weather that visitors can expect on their safari vacation.

Katonga can be visited at any time of the year, but the best time for wildlife viewing is in the Dry seasons (December to February and June to July when the grass is shorter and vegetation is thinner).

Health

It is recommended to visit a travel clinic before coming to Uganda. Several Uganda vaccinations are recommended and usually administered before your departure.

Antimalarials are advised, as well as covering up in the evening and using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective).

It is recommended to visit a travel clinic before coming to Uganda. Several Uganda vaccinations are recommended and usually administered before your departure.

FAQs

Where is Katonga Wildlife Reserve located?

Katonga wildlife reserve is located in the districts of Ibanda and Kamwenge in the western Uganda along the banks of River Katonga. It covers an area of about 211sq km.

What animals will visitors see at Katonga Wildlife Reserve?

Visitors to Katonga Wildlife Reserve will see antelope species including the Uganda kob as well as hippos, elephants, buffaloes, sitatunga antelope, reedbuck, bushbuck, waterbuck baboons and black-and-white colobus.